Unpacking Gender in Spain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband ran his first road race on Friday. He’s an avid runner back home, having completed numerous marathons and other races of varying distances.

And here, of course, it was a bit different. The race was supposed to start at five. Paul finally started running at six. At the end of the race, the runners had the choice of Diet Coke or Fanta. And, of course, there was lots of smoking on the sidelines.

But perhaps the most jarring difference for me was the almost complete lack of women.

There were plenty of girls racing, sure. But it seems that when it came to adults, it was almost exclusively a field of fast, serious men, most of whom compete in one of several local running clubs.

Where were the women? They weren’t running, that’s for sure.

My Spanish teacher noted that men can refer to their partner as “mi mujer,” but a woman would never say, “mi hombre.” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Es machismo.”

I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the state of male-female relations here. I mean, women work. But, I think they also do a lot of the cleaning and child-rearing and cooking. Men take their kids to the park. But I’m not sure if they change diapers.

It’s hard for me to say, since I’m not in their homes.

Yet, I sense something in the air. I see it in the groups of men sharing drinks at the bars, or watching futbol. There’s a sense of separation at times, rules that I don’t quite understand.

I wonder how often I break these rules. And I wonder, as I raise two boys in this culture (at least temporarily) what they are learning.

I love the Spanish commitment to family, the priorities related to relaxation and time. I watch the men being so very tender to their children and their wives.

And then, I hear my landlady say that her husband cooks, “solamente agua” and I inwardly roll my eyes.

For every time that I feel like I want to embrace every bit of the Spanish culture, I’m reminded how very American I am. I want to sign up for road races at the base, and run without shame with my sisters. I want to watch mi hombre cook a turkey.

And yet? Men take the names of their mothers. Their surnames are long and unwieldy, a testimony to the women in their lives. They remember them, and honor them, whenever they sign a document.

There’s so much love there.

And so much for me to learn.

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One thought on “Unpacking Gender in Spain

  1. This is a lot of Spanish-speaking countries, from what I understand. It’s so interesting to read your perspective of it. Machismo is something hard to teach/learn because it’s so cultural.

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